The iPad for Business Travelers & Backpackers

The Apple iPad hit the market last week with much anticipation. What does this tablet mean for business travelers and backpackers? Will it replace the laptop for on-the-road computing needs? Here are a few key features to take note.

Size & Shape – The iPad is .5 inches thick, only slightly thicker than the iPhone 3GS, and measures 9.56 x 7.47 inches. It weighs 1.5 pounds without 3G, and 1.6 with 3G.

Camera – There isn’t one. ‘Nough said.

Touch Keyboard – It’s a bit awkward to use with a very large touch screen keyboard.

Battery Life – Ten hours of constant use, with a one-month standby rating.

Email – Similar visual signals as the iPhone but better. You can preview your mailbox from any message with a pull-down menu, and preview any message from within the mailbox, with a pop-up window.

iPhone apps – The iPad is great for apps. Plus any apps you have downloaded to your iPhone can be automatically synced for free to your iPad.

Music – The music player is even more combined and exciting, a mix between the iPhone’s iPod interface and desktop iTunes.

Maps – Very similar conversion and interface from the iPhone but way better. You can view maps from above with high-resolution satellite imagery, up close with street view or with topography in new terrain view. You can also get directions from your current location.

Calendar & Contacts – The calendar app is desktop-like, until you open contacts and calendars, which look a lot like actual contact books and organizers.

iWork – A completely new version designed specifically for iPad. Each application has a great user interface. You can create slides, documents or spreadsheets with ease. Each App also integrates the Media inspector for easy access to photos and music.

Ebooks – Apple has developed an ebook to store for the iPad called iBooks. It greatly resembles iTunes.

So how do the iPad features translate into benefits for business travelers and backpackers?

The business traveler can now travel light, check emails, view contacts and work on docs, presentations and spreadsheets with ease all from the airplane, hotel or on the go. If you are seeking an intermediate mobile device that takes up little space, offers budget priced 3G connectivity, and provides all-day battery life the iPad might be your best option.

The backpack traveler will find some of the iPad features handy such as the maps, which are more interactive and easier to view than on the iPhone. No need to break out the giant paper map anymore! While checking email and IMs from the hostel or hotel is useful is this really a priority for the backpacker? And lets face it – the camera has become an integral part of our travel experience. The fact that iPad doesn’t have a camera could be a deal breaker for the traveler who seeks an all-in-one device.

So what are your thoughts on the iPad? Will it be your next travel tool of choice?